No, Philadelphia’s Seventh District City Council race doesn’t technically fall under NinetyNine’s mayoral-coverage auspices.
But when said council race features racist, homophobic and otherwise insensitive Facebook posts purportedly written by a Democratic Party-endorsed challenger, and that challenger hosts a press conference featuring a big “reveal,” exceptions had to be made.
That explains how NinetyNine ended up at Manny Morales’ tiny, bathroom-less campaign office on the 1200 block of E. Hunting Park Ave. on a snowy Friday morning.
There, he stood in front of a diverse collection of people on hand to vouch for him. The lesbian couple who live two doors away and maintain the Manny they know is not a homophobe. The longtime black friends who rebutted allegations of racism.
While handlers said “the Facebook fiasco” would not be addressed at the press conference, it was the center of attention for more than a half hour.
What Morales had to say
With the cameras rolling, Morales denied he made the posts, claimed he asked the party to rescind its endorsement (the word “endorsed” was covered on the campaign poster hanging on the wall) and “revealed” allegations that three dead people allegedly “signed” incumbent Maria Quinones Sanchez’s nominating petitions.
“I did not make those postings,” he said, after a campaign spokesman noted that there is an ongoing internal campaign investigation about how those updates landed on Morales’ Facebook page. “I repeat: I did not make those postings.”
Morales also maintained that the story was a sham designed to deflect attention away from his campaign and insulate Sanchez from having to face his challenge head on.
“These are facts: The ‘walking dead’ signed her petitions,” said Morales. “That’s what the media should be looking into.”
To that end, he said he would remain in the race through the May 19 primary.
“I will stand with the voters, the very same voters that have been abandoned, disenfranchised and forgotten by the incumbent,” he said. “That is why I was asked [to run] by the community, my neighbors and the majority of the ward leaders.
“From this moment on, I am moving on and looking forward to serving the voters and being a public servant in every sense of the word. I will be out there campaigning and letting everybody know who Manny Morales really is.”
Though unwilling to engage in a discussion about its “investigation,” the Morales campaign promised to make the results of the probe public upon completion.
There was some wavering among various possible explanations: hacking; faux screen grabs; or “tawdry” things being posted on Facebook when someone loses their smartphone. Also mentioned: assertions that Morales’ car was broken into and a checkbook was stolen, fomenting worries of identity theft.
Reactions from afar
Morales called out friend and mayoral prospect Nelson Diaz for calling on the candidate to exit the race despite a lack of concrete facts.
In response, Diaz’s campaign returned to a Thursday statement that read, in part, “As a former Judge, I believe everyone has a right to mount a defense and make their case before passing judgment on damning charges.
“My campaign has been asking Manny Morales to offer concrete evidence that the allegations against him cannot be corroborated. We haven’t received such evidence, and as a result I am asking Manny Morales to issue an apology and withdraw from this race.”
Told about Morales’ allegations of fraudulent petition signatures, Sanchez noted that any candidates’ petition signatures should be subject to scrutiny, but questioned why Morales didn’t file a petition challenge by Tuesday’s deadline. (The Morales camp’s reply: The phony signatures weren’t numerous enough to toss her from the ballot.)
Sanchez said the petition issue has nothing to do with her foe’s Facebook fiasco.
“The point here is that he does not represent Democratic values and the party does not want a candidate who doesn’t share its values,” Sanchez told NinetyNine on Friday afternoon. “There should be due diligence, and that will prove that they were his postings. In addition to being a bigot, he’s a liar.”
She seemingly welcomed news that her challenger was remaining in the race.
“When he says we have an incumbent who has done nothing in seven years, he’s insulting anyone who as followed the legislative process. … We can now have a debate centering around the issues, and I look forward to that policy debate.”